Norfolk Island History

The day after the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay, Lieutenant Philip Gidley King began selecting the handful of men and women whose fate it would be to colonise Norfolk Island. Britain was then engaged in the American War of Independence and her supplies of timber for ship-building and flax for sails were almost exhausted.

When Captain Cook discovered Norfolk Island, he enthusiastically reported that flax and giant pines grew abundantly there. His Majesty's Government had a further reason for colonising Norfolk - if the British didn't, the French would. Lord Sydney's instructions to King were " to send a small establishment thither to secure the same to us and prevent it being occupied by subjects of any other European Power". Six women convicts were chosen as those 'whose characters stood fairest' and they were joined by nine male convicts and eight free men, their ages ranging from 16 to 72.

The oldest, Richard Widdicombe, had been a farmer. He was convicted for `stealing one wooden winch and other goods, value four guineas', and was sentenced to seven years transportation. The youngest, Charles McLennan, was convicted when he was only 14 years of age and given seven years for `stealing a bladder purse, value one penny, one gold half-guinea, one half-crown, and six pennies'. Of the motley 759 persons who arrived with the First Fleet, these 23 were selected as `the best of a bad lot'.

Norfolk Island History in Detail

Colonisation
Early Days
The 'Bounty' Connection
Tahiti
Seeds of Mutiny
Eruption
The Open Boat Journey
Starvation on Norfolk
Fate of the Bounty Mutineers
The Noble Savages
Second Settlement
Hell in Paradise
Pitcairn to Norfolk